September 24, 2009

The Dalai Lama on the Balcony of the Lorraine Motel

If it’s off-topic headline-wise, I was really struck by this image on the wire yesterday. The caption reads:

The Dalai Lama, left, stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009, in Memphis, Tenn., and looks up at the location pointed out by Rev. Benjamin Hooks, right, where the bullet was fired that killed Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. The Dalai Lama is in Memphis to accept the 2009 International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum.

Beyond the mashing of two very powerful visual icons (that infamous balcony in combination with the distinct presence of the robed religious and cultural figure) and the strong color play (the robe “dialoguing” with the carnations, and the more colorful left half of the photo contrasting with the more black-and-white right half), there is also a striking collision here between history and the emotional reaction to it.

Most specifically, look at the Dalai Lama’s right hand. What I’m curious about is how much he’s using his body in order to sense what did in Reverend King in that moment in ’68, and how much, in empathy with Reverend Hooks, he feels compelled to point too.

Update: Several of you wrote asking that I post the photo below as a basis for comparison. As discussed in the thread, the photo with the Dalai Lama is also charged by the pointing in Joseph Louw’s iconic and horrific image.


(image 1:Mark Humphrey/AP. image 2: Joseph Louw/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images. April 4, 1968)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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